Lynda Benglis at The New Museum

Detail ImageLynda Benglis, Crowned Fish (1992-98), glazed ceramic, 16″ x 15-1/2″ x 17″; courtesy Cheim & Read

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When will Lynda Benglis be given her due? I’m not talking about the post-minimalist sculptor or the maker of gender-bending videos or the dildo-wielding feminist of yore. These Benglissian alter egos have their reputations in order. I’m talking about Benglis the ceramicist, the hands-on, head-over-heels, out-on-a-limb shaper of clay.

Four examples of the ceramic work are included in the Benglis retrospective currently at The New Museum. Three are wonders of elegance, grit and brevity; another, a Surrealist goof; all are characterized by generosity of spirit, roiling sensuality and three-sheets-to-the-wind élan. They’re irresistible–unlike the rest of the oeuvre, wherein Benglis’ “sumptuous” explorations of materials and process prove to have more in common with taxidermy than with anything resembling art.

The New Museum isn’t providing j-pegs of the ceramics. They’re too minor, I suppose, or maybe not sufficiently indicative of (get ready for the dated art-speak) “pointed critique[s] of sculptural machismo and . . . a fluid awareness of gender and artistic identity”. So, I’ll offer thanks to Cheim & Read for the above photo, poached from the gallery’s online inventory, and this link to a previous encomium for Benglis’ “messy and muscular” vitality.

© 2011 Mario Naves

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